Mitt Romney has laid the ground work for debates and campaign advertising to follow in the next two months. However, as the old saying goes there is many a slip between the cup and the lip
As Hurricane Isaac raced over Florida and the Gulf the Republicans got down to the business of nominating Governor Mitt Romney and the Representative Paul Ryan as their presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the November elections. They met in Tampa, Florida, which is a swing state and the Republicans rolled out their big guns and heavy hitters who systematically pounded President Obama and the Democrats for a failed Presidency. The theme of the speeches might have been boilerplate but there was soaring rhetoric and much enthusiasm and the Republicans could sense that they had the wind behind their backs. They could sense an opportunity in the president’s vulnerability. They spoke about jobs and about the deficit. They spoke on the reduction of the military spending and about the place of America in the world and they blew the bugle and sounded the battle cry for the 6th of November.
They laid out their case to the American people as to why they should not re-elect President Obama to a second term, as to how he had let them down miserably and how he had failed in the stewardship of the economy and the change he had promised had never materialised. They lined up all the superstars of the Republican party like Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, senators Marco Rubio of Florida and of course Paul Ryan himself and Mitt Romney. Anne Romney spoke feelingly about the storybook marriage she supportably had with Mitt and said that no storybook spoke about getting multiple sclerosis and breast cancer and about five boys fighting in the middle of the afternoon creating havoc. Her role and her speech were both very important as Americans particularly women have not warmed up to her husband Mitt Romney and her speech was supposed to be a bridge between the voter and Mitt Romney. To make him more likeable, less aloof and to tell Americans that the super rich also have problems like you and me.
Ann Romney spoke about how she met Mitt Romney at a high school dance and they been inseparable thereafter and about how she had encouraged him to go and save the winter Olympics in Salt Lake City which task he carried off with aplomb and she assured Americans that Mitt Romney was a problem solver and could be trusted and would lead to a better America. Dressed in red she spoke confidently and carried off her speech with flying colours.
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey in his keynote address told the Americans that the Republicans would level with them and that times would be hard but they would come through the difficult times together. He explained the blueprint of how a Republican governor of an overwhelmingly blue state of New Jersey had got on with the job and lavishly praised Mitt Romney. His speech was pugnacious and he took the attack straight to the Democrats.
Paul Ryan, the Republican pick for vice-president spoke feelingly at the convention. He said, “After four years of getting the run around, America needs a turnaround and the man for the job is Governor Mitt Romney”. Speaking of medicare he said, “So our opponents can consider themselves on notice in this election, on this issue, the usual posturing on the left isn’t going to get them anywhere. Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a programme. and raiding it. Ladies and gentlemen our nation needs this debate, we will win this debate.”
He also said that “it all started with stirring speeches and Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that is left is a presidency—a drift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired and moment that has already passed like a ship trying to sail on yesterdays wind.”
On the last day of the convention Mitt Romney took the stage to accept the nomination of the Republican party as its presidential candidate he knew that it was the most important speech of his life. He knew that the job of defeating Barrack Obama was not yet done. He knew that the extensive attacks on him by the Democrats had taken their toll and that there was repair work to be done and that this was the best opportunity.
He began his speech by saying that America was a country of optimists. It was a country of immigrants who came there for freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to start a business. He said he was born in the middle of the century, in the middle of the country. He spoke of President Kennedy, he spoke of Neil Armstrong whose footsteps on the moon left foot steps on the hearts of all Americans. He said that when the world needs someone to do the big stuff you need an American. He then spoke about his family history, his mom running for the senate, his father becoming governor of Michigan and running for the Presidency.
Romney spoke of the excitement of four years ago and how the excitement had been dissipated. He spoke of his five-point economic programme which included oil independence by 2020, trading with the world, cutting the deficit and balancing the budget. A plan to create twelve million jobs championing small business. He also spoke of how Bain had started with ten people and had become a billion dollar corporation. He spoke of Bain’s success with staples, steel dynamics and sports authority. He said Obama always attacks success whereas in America we celebrate success. He spoke of Steve jobs and said even Jobs failed in business before building Apple. He said that except Jimmy Carter every president could say that Americans were better than they were four years ago. He spoke of 1/6th of America being in poverty.
Mitt Romney made a competent, if not stirring speech. It was difficult to tell whether the speech was enough for Americans to trust him and the ultimate analysis who the Americans trust to make their life better will decide the elections. Romney has still to earn the trust of women and minorities, had he done enough? He has certainly taken a step in the right direction and has laid the ground work for the debates and furious campaign advertising to follow in the next two months. Here the Republicans have a solid money advantage and could outspend the Democrats by 2:1. You could sense that the Republicans thought that the presidency was within their grasp. However, as the old saying goes there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)
Once the coal block discovery and its potential is made, both the state and the environment ministry must undertake a detailed study and draw up a checklist of dos and don’ts that need to be done, correct the situation, and only then make the block available for use
According to a statement made by coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and later on reiterated by prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, it is not possible to simply issue a cancellation notice or order for the coal blocks given earlier. There are certain rules and procedures to be followed in such cases.
At the moment, Sriprakash Jaiswal said that an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) is reviewing the 58 allocations made and these recipients have been issued show-cause notices for delaying the mining process, as only one unit had actually gone into production. Besides, a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) probe was on to investigate if there were any irregularities in connection with these allocations.
The IMG is expected to submit its report (or, shall we say, its findings) by 15th September, after which a decision can be made on the cancellation issue.
At this point of time, it is apparent that once the licenses were issued, no one really took interest, in the various departments and ministries to keep a watch on the progress actually made at the mining sites. Also, if the allottees had any serious problems and bottlenecks, such as those generally charged at the state-level or at the MOEF (ministry of environment and forests), these were not made public. So, everyone, who should have really been concerned, was really in the dark!
In fact, the whole story broke out only after CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) report was made public, from where the public came to know of the staggering sums of money, which are claimed to be “windfall gains” surfaced.
In his defence, finance minister P Chidambaram claimed that the ‘coal’ was in mother ‘earth’ and so there was no ‘loss’ as such. On the other hand, if everything was working well and at full swing in the mining operation, not only the allottees would have made huge profits (windfall gains) but the government would have also received taxes on these besides other forms of levies that may be applicable at the time of production and despatch!
Therefore, the whole issue is debateable, depending on which side you are on!
Press reports also indicate that Sasan Power, a unit of Reliance Power, has also received this show-cause notice, being one of the 58 blocks, under review by the IMG. It may be recalled that Sasan is an UMPP (ultra mega power project) with a 4,000 MW capacity, in which production has just started, based on coal supplies from Moher and Amlohri mines in UP, which are expected to supply some 20 million tonnes annually, after reaching the fourth year of production.
The first Sasan unit with 660 MW capacity is scheduled to go on stream by the year end.
According to Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Power, Sasan UMPP will be able to supply power @ Rs1.19 per unit, the lowest for any coal based project in the country. If this is actually maintained, there is no reason why, this company should not be invited to take the lead in putting up other similar plants elsewhere, or, at best, to expand the Sasan capacity, since it has become operable?
Meanwhile, the 58 allottees, who have received show-cause notices, have to provide necessary information that they have been asked to submit to IMG, from which it will be clear whether they have started their spade work or are stuck deep in the mud due to hurdles raised at state or MOEF levels. If so, what is the progress they have made since to obtain the required clearances, so that work can commence?
The unfortunate pity is that this kind of debate will go on endlessly, with each side trying to apportion the blame on the other and forget to focus on our urgent and imperative need to get power via coal, at the moment!
What is the solution?
It should start from the beginning itself. Once the coal block discovery and its potential is made, both the state and the MOEF must undertake a detailed study and draw up a checklist of dos and don’ts that need to be done, correct the situation, and then make the block available for use. Then, and then alone, the block should be offered for sale by auction, stipulating various deadlines to be carried out, including the time-frame to start and target production figures for actual delivery. At the moment we are putting the cart before the horse, and let the successful bidder of the block fend for himself, and start the hurdles race, which is tougher than the Olympic standards.
The Railways should be involved in advance planning for dedicated corridors to various industrial sectors, or to the specific location, if it is a linked power project; Power Grid Corporation of India should be involved for arranging the link to the national grid, so that it becomes an eye-opener to all.
Simply making promises and assurances will not get us anywhere. We need to deliver goods and power is in urgent need.
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
A series of accidents in the Mumbai Metro being built by the Reliance group of Anil Ambani throws open the question whether private sector involvement, without accountability, can be the answer to our infrastructure needs